Hailed as a facility fit for the 21st century, the new Fort Frances Public Library Technology Centre has much more to offer the public than books and DVDs.
Understanding—and accessing—the technology-based services the library provides has become easier now that the facility has hired technology co-ordinator Raj Sritharan.
Sritharan, whose position was made possible through a grant from Ontario Library Service North and Southern Ontario Library Service awarded to the local library and Rainy River Public Library this past spring, has come here from London, Ont., where he recently graduated from Western University with a master’s degree in Library and Information Science.
Sritharan’s been impressed by the new facility so far.
“I actually think it’s the most advanced library I’ve been to, and I’ve visited a lot of libraries in large cities, including London, Brampton, and Thunder Bay,” he noted.
“It’s definitely above and beyond libraries I’ve gone to.
“It’s nice to not only have a new building, but also have new tools to utilize,” Sritharan added.
One of his first projects has been setting up an online schedule for meeting room bookings using Google Calendar.
If the public wants to reserve one of the two study rooms or the Shaw Communications hub at the library, they can check this schedule via a link found at library.fort-frances.com/
Sritharan said patrons can go online and find out when the rooms are booked, and for how long, before calling the library to make a reservation.
And those wanting to use the Shaw hub need not be intimidated about using the technology therein, such as the SMART Board, since Sritharan will be there to help out.
“The SMART Board is very useful for presenting information,” he said. You can ‘draw’ on the actual surface of the screen while you’re presenting.
“It also allows you, if you’re doing a slideshow, to move forwards and backwards just by touching the screen rather than moving the mouse,” he added.
The Shaw hub also has web-conferencing capabilities with dedicated bandwidth allowing for high-quality video and audio. This makes it easy to stage long-distance meetings.
“We’re hoping we’ll get more use out of that,” said Sritharan. “I think there’s been some initial use in the last month or so, but we’re hoping to expand on that as we progress.”
Another initiative Sritharan is heading up is a weekly “Lunch and Learn” program starting in September.
Sritharan said the idea is to provide the public with a chance to spend a half-hour during their lunch break to get “a quick intro to technologies people are interested in.”
“During their lunch hour, they can come into the library and they can learn something [that] might be useful to them at their jobs or maybe at home, something interesting and useful to them,” he explained.
But Sritharan needs to know what people want to learn so he can tailor the “Lunch and Learn” sessions accordingly.
“Right now we’re hoping to start with Twitter, RSS, blogging—people have expressed interest in that,” he remarked.
“Those are just some general technologies we’ll provide an intro to.
“But we’ll also have some specialized programs about online shopping, securing your Facebook privacy, that kind of thing,” added Sritharan.
“The using of exciting technology in a better way.”
Those with ideas about the “Lunch and Learn” program are welcome to offer their input while at the library, or send it along via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Initially, “Lunch and Learn” will run once a week. But if it proves popular enough, Sritharan said it could be expanded.
Sritharan is able to help library patrons with any questions they have while using the public computers there.
As a point of interest, he noted all the computers in the lab have links to ancestry.com—an online database which helps people trace their ancestry.
Some patrons may remember this program from the old library, but the new facility has more computers for the public to use.
As well, Sritharan can aid library patrons with using the adaptive technology there.
This technology, which was sponsored by the Voyageur Lions Club of Fort Frances, ranges from TOPAZ (a desktop video magnifier that magnifies printed materials up to 82 times) to JAWS (screen reading software where a computerized voice reads out the contents of the computer screen, whether it’s a newspaper article or anything else).
Sritharan also said the public is welcome to ask him just about anything else regarding computers and technology, and he’ll offer advice.
“I am here to assist them as much as possible,” he stressed. “Even if it’s not a program we’re running, they can come in with whatever questions they have and I’ll try my best to help them.
“It doesn’t have to be a formal thing. They can call the library or just come in.”
So far, Sritharan has been working five days a week in Fort Frances. In the next month, however, he will start spending his Fridays in Rainy River.
He will be providing tech support there and, after consulting with the public to find out what they want, start conducting programs.
Chief librarian Margaret Sedgwick said she’s glad to have Sritharan on board.
“With the new technology co-ordinator position, we are looking forward to offering more programs for area residents relating to new technologies,” she explained.
“The addition of SMART Boards, video- and web-conferencing at the library opens the door to a greater variety of programs that we will be able to offer,” Sedgwick added.
“If there are specific programs that individuals or groups would like to happen, please let us know.”
Library board chair Joyce Cunningham echoed Sedgwick’s sentiments.
“The library board has been saying that we need some of this expertise as we see a marvelous potential for the use of technology,” she noted.
“Not only the use of technology, but for building relationships with many different groups in the community,” Cunningham said.
“We’re looking at this as one more opportunity to explore those opportunities, and we’re hoping that anybody that sees any potential and any possibility of using our facility will come into the library and talk to both Margaret and Raj about how we can work together and build on the expertise and on our needs to service the whole community,” she added.
Speaking not as a library board member but as a local senior, Cunningham said she liked the idea of the “Lunch and Learn” program.
“There’s all kinds of things that I would like to learn, and I think there’s potential to use the library technology centre to do that,” she reasoned.
“I think there’s a whole bunch of people just in my category, and you know, we are becoming the majority.”
Meanwhile, outside of work, Sritharan said he’s found Fort Frances has given him a warm welcome.
“People are very friendly,” he enthused. “Like, I’ve gone to restaurants and staff there have remembered my name.
“It’s kind of unusual.
“I noticed the people are really friendly here,” Sritharan added. “With everybody coming into the library, I’m introduced to a lot of people.
“It’s been good.”
Sritharan also noted the town is in a scenic location, right next to the water. And although he hasn’t been fishing yet, he’s sure he will at some point.